The ketogenic diet is one of the best diets on the planet for fighting disease and losing weight (1).
Although the word “diet” can seem intimidating to some, you should think of the keto diet as more of a lifestyle change, a way of eating that includes meal plans you can enjoy for the rest of your life.
The keto diet was designed to mimic the health benefits of intermittent fasting by limiting the glucose available to your body. It works by putting you into a state of ketosis: instead of using glucose from carbohydrates as energy, your body uses fat. This means that it becomes easier to burn your body fat, together with the fat that you’re ingesting. Limiting the available glucose also stabilizes blood sugar levels and reduces the risk of many diseases.
Below you will find a list of what you can and cannot eat on a keto diet. We will also provide the average nutritional information of each food and explain everything in details.
The list is our recommendation of the most keto-friendly foods for optimal results, based on science. We have taken into account the health benefits of the different foods and their macro- and micronutrient profiles, as well as scientific evidence, in order to present you with a comprehensive and easy-to-use list of foods.
How To Use This Food List:
Of course, everyone is different and you might find out that you respond better or worse to some of them. The best way to find out your ideal foods is to experiment.
Additionally, the quality of the foods you choose to eat, combined with a good understanding how your body responds to different types of food, will make a huge difference.
Ketogenic way of eating isn’t a one size fits all diet. It’s best to personalize your diet to fit your individual circumstance and health condition (E.g. insulin resistance, lactose intolerance, allergies, etc…) to meet your needs and achieve your goals.
The foods listed here work well for many people. If you follow a very strict keto diet, make sure to personalize this food list to make it work best for you.
If you are looking for a Done-For-You Meal Plan, check our Free Keto Meal Plans! These are complimentary plans that can help you get started!
For your convenience and to save you time, we also created this infographic to summarize what you can eat on keto. Feel free to save this infographic photo by pinning it to your Pinterest board for later use.
A big part of your calories on the keto diet will come from fats.
These can be the natural fats present in different foods, for example in meats, avocado, eggs, nuts, as well as fats extracted from different sources, such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, lard, and so on.
Contrary to popular belief, sugar (and not fat) is often the driving force behind weight gain and disease.
There’s a catch, though: not all fats are created equal.
Here’s a brief overview of the different types of fats:
Saturated fats: these include coconut oil, lard, ghee, and butter. A part of your fat calories on the keto diet will come from saturated fat.
Monounsaturated fats (also known as MUFAs): also known as “good” fats, because they can have a positive effect on your heart health and cholesterol levels. Oils that are high in MUFAs are, for example, olive oil and avocado oil, and can be consumed on a keto diet.
Polyunsaturated fats (also known as PUFAs): these fats can also be beneficial for your health when eaten in moderation, depending on the source. Naturally occurring polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in animal fats and fish, are much better than processed oils, such as corn oil, rapeseed oil, soy oil and margarine. This is mostly related to the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids that you can find in most processed oils that have a high PUFAs content.
Trans fats: these fats are best avoided completely, as they have a negative impact on cholesterol and heart health. Trans fats are chemically altered to improve the shelf life of products that contain them. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any product that contains the word “hydrogenated” in its ingredients list.
Keep in mind that fats are very calorie-dense, so even if you’re eating “good” fats, you can gain weight simply by consuming too many calories.
The good news?
Fat is very satiating and the ketogenic diet makes you feel less hungry overall, so you’ll probably be naturally eating less than before. However, it’s still a very good idea to track macros (and therefore also calories), especially if your goal is fat loss.
Fat consumption should depend on your goals and current body composition. If you have a lot of fat to lose, let your body burn it off by controlling the amount of fat that you’re consuming. If you’d like to maintain your weight, you can use fat to increase your calorie consumption to maintenance levels.
Remember: fat is a lever.
The oils you’re buying should be virgin and cold-pressed whenever possible, meaning they have not been heated to high temperatures and stripped of their nutrients. When choosing nut butter, make sure they don’t include added sugars.
It’s a good idea to buy organic, grass-fed and antibiotic-free meat, and wild fish, whenever possible, however, we know that the price can be prohibitive at times, so ultimately, buy what your budget allows for.
When it comes to choosing full fat coconut milk, make sure it’s gluten-free and contains no preservatives. This product usually comes in a can and ideally, you only want to have coconut extract and water as the ingredients. Some brands might add guar gum to thicken the liquid. Some people refer it as coconut cream. Depending on the brands and the ratio between the liquid expressed from grated coconut meat and water, the fat content might vary anywhere from 15g-22g of fat per 100g serving.
Protein, together with fat, is essential when following a keto diet.
Many fat sources are also high in protein (such as fatty meats and nuts), so these two often go hand-in-hand.
It’s best to choose organic meat, fish and eggs whenever possible, as their quality and nutritional profile are often better, together with taste, however, if you don’t have the money for it, just choose the best quality that fits your budget.
While dairy can be consumed on a keto diet, you should keep in mind that some products (such as milk and yoghurt) can be quite high in carbs, while others, such as cheese and heavy cream, are quite caloric. Additionally, some people are sensitive to dairy, so if you have hit a weight loss plateau, you might want to limit dairy for 2-3 weeks and see if that helps.
Here are the protein foods you can have:
Beef: steak, brisket, ground beef, roasts, veal, and stews.
Pork: tenderloin, pork loin, pork chops, ground pork, and pork belly.
Poultry: chicken (breast, thighs, wings, drumsticks, ground meat, etc…), quail, duck and other wild game.
Organ meat: heart, tongue, kidney, liver and offal.
Other meat: veal, goat, lamb, turkey and other wild game.
Whole eggs: can be poached, fried, deviled, scrambled, omelette and hard boiled.
Fish: salmon, barramundi, snapper, tuna, catfish, cod, mackerel, flounder, trout, whiting and perch.
Shellfish: clams, lobster, crawfish, oysters, crab, prawns, shrimp, mussels, scallops, calamari and squid.
Processed meat: bacon, ham, sausage, and salami. Check labels to make sure there are no nasty extra fillers or added sugar.
Although fruits have a number of health benefits, it also contains large amounts of sugar and, sometimes, a lot of calories, too.
It is therefore, best to limit fruit as much as possible on a keto diet.
Avocado is the only exception. Besides the high amount of healthy fat, avocado has many health benefits and contains few net carbs.
If you miss fruit too much, you can still enjoy some in moderation, especially berries.
Make sure that you’re choosing options that are lower in carbohydrates and contain a high amount of antioxidants, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. You also need to keep an eye on servings’ size, as carbs in fruit can quickly add up.
Fruit juices are off-limits on a keto diet as they are usually highly processed and contain refined sugar. If you are going to eat fruit, it’s better to eat the whole fruit to get the fiber that comes along with it to fill you up, stabilize blood sugar levels and aid in digestion.
One of the definite advantages of the keto diet is that most people feel less hungry, which means it is easier to follow it than other diets. That’s why you might not feel the need to snack at all, and you should be able to limit it without too much trouble.
Mindless snacking is definitely something you would want to avoid, but if you feel genuinely hungry and if having a snack will help you stick to your daily macros, there is no reason not to have a few nuts, for example. Remember to always measure and track snacks.
Before having a snack, try having some tea or water (with or without lemon, and with or without salt) to make sure you’re not just dehydrated instead of hungry.
If you must snack, stick to foods that will keep you full for longer periods of time and that will curb feelings of hunger. Also be sure to keep your portions as small as possible.
It can be tricky to know what to drink on the keto diet. If you’re ever unsure, water is always your best bet.
If you want to step up your game, try lemon water. Lemon water alkalizes the acids that are found in most keto foods to keep your blood pH levels neutral.
Unsweetened almond milk teas, and coffee are perfectly acceptable on the keto diet.
Other unsweetened nut milk can also be good options, but make sure to always check the label for the exact macros, as they can differ a lot.
Some evidence suggests that too much caffeine may have contradictory effects on blood sugar levels, so be sure not to drink more than one or two cups a day.
When you consume alcohol, your body will burn the alcohol first, then carbs, and finally fat. So, it’s best to avoid it.
If you’re attending a social occasion where alcohol will be served, opt for a dry glass of red wine and limit your intake to one or two.